THE IRISH ECHO ON 1798 POSTER IN BELFAST CITY HALL
Hearing it from all sides
News & Views | admin | June 16th, 2011
By Ray O'Hanlon
Welcome to politics young man.
Sinn Féin’s recently elected lord mayor of Belfast, Niall Ó Donnghaile, more lad than lord by the look of various photos, has upset unionists by taking portraits of Prince Charles and the late Queen Mother off the walls of his office and replacing them with framed copies of the 1916 Proclamation and a poster commemorating the rebellion of 1798.
Nobody can claim absolute rights to the former, but the latter is the work of New York artist Brian Mor O’Baoigill who is not happy at all at the thought of his work being hoisted in a building where Sinn Féin and unionists are doing business.
“Republican dissidents are demanding Belfast’s new Sinn Féin Lord Mayor takes down a poster from his parlor which they claim insults Ireland’s patriot dead by being displayed in ‘a bastion of British rule,’” the Daily mirror, Irish version, stated in a report.
“Niall Ó Donnghaile removed pictures of Prince Charles and the Queen Mother from his City Hall office and replaced them with the 1916 Proclamation and a poster of the United Irishmen.
“However, the artist who created the poster commemorating Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen’s 1798 rebellion said he is ‘deeply offended’ that his work is on display in the mayor’s parlor,” the Mirror report stated.
And Republican Sinn Féin has threatened that if Ó Donnghaile doesn’t remove the poster, they will picket City Hall. Party spokeswoman Geraldine Taylor said: “Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmet would be turning in their graves if they knew where their picture was hanging.”
IF is not so sure what these three greats of the Irish freedom struggle might be thinking on this matter, but Brian Mor O’Baoigill’s thoughts are easier to discern.
He told the Mirror: “I created the poster to honor republican martyrs who fought for Irish freedom. To display it in the home of the British government in Belfast is the greatest insult possible.
“The men of 1798 died to rid Ireland of the British. Hanging their picture in an office controlled and paid for by the UK makes a mockery of their efforts. When Belfast City Hall is located in a united Ireland, I’ll be honored to see my artwork displayed there. Until then, I demand Sinn Féin removes it.”
O’Baoigill, whose work has appeared in the Echo, told the paper that he was “devastated” when he saw a Northern Ireland TV news bulletin showing his art in the mayoral parlor.
This is a tricky one for the new lord mayor, the youngest ever to hold the office. Of course, one way out would be to take down O’Baoigill’s work and replace it with another depiction of 1798.
That’s a simple solution, but we’re dealing here with age old Irish arguments over republican purity, or lack thereof. More lad than lord. But not for long.